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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

secret windows (don't look back)

I found myself in a conversation with an old friend, about the crossroads of writing, nostalgia and memory. "Distance and perspective are the upside." I said. "The slippery slope is romanticizing and being nostalgic. Well, that's the memory trap no matter who you are."
"It's funny... I spent most of my life thinking that I had a rather dull adolescence, and it's only recently that I've discovered that these stories are a lot more interesting than I gave them credit." My friend replied.
I admitted that I gravitate towards stories that are based on a mistake, a lie - thinking you had some great childhood, when actually it was a shitshow, and you fantasized about being adopted but sort of blocked that out.  



The question wobbled around inside my head for a few days. Was I too fast to judge nostalgia, to quick to brush aside its sweetness, stepping over it towards something invariably darker and sadder?  On Sunday, I was walking on Kutuzovsky, the cars roaring past as loud as a racetrack. Here is the MTS store, where we bought E's first phone, where I had gone so many times and now the windows are dirty, the inside is strewn with broken office furniture and a sign hangs loose in the wind, "space for rent". I wondered then, about the underrated sugar of nostalgia.

Looking back is easy. The edges are all too often smoothed over. Why not take that as a form of forgiveness? Nostalgia erases the vendetta, the grudge. It forgives. But maybe, just maybe that is the slippery slope I am so scared of. Maybe some things should not be smoothed over. I remember leaving New York for a month when I was 29. I went to Italy for the first time, my heart full of big splashy ideas, a girl to see, a loose plan of cities and streets to explore. It all deflated within hours of arriving, a balloon left out in the cold, hanging like a shriveled party leftover in the corner of a dark room. I still walked countless streets, in Rome and Florence, Bologna and Milan. I ate alone in restaurants, sipping wine and staring at faces. There were piazzas and old clocktowers, children playing, tiny museums. There was a fountain, and a great fog, a carousel with tiny bright lights that turned in a drunken haze. I remember it all. And then I came back to New York, thinking to visit Ferruci's on 1st Avenue, to buy some good rice, some sweet wet young garlic, maybe some black olives to eat while I cooked, a loaf of semolina so I could rip one end off and shove it in my mouth while I walked home, the wind cold on my face. But Ferucci's was gone when I went back. No warning, no announcement. The phantom smell of pecorino and sopressata made me dizzy as I stared into the dark cavern that hid behind the greasy windows. This was a feeling I could not shake off, a heady mix of betrayal and loss, the countless conversations with the two men behind the counter, one red-haired and silly, the other dark and serious, his voice a low whisper. So many nights I lingered, just breathing in that rare air, not ready to go home and cook some bachelor gravy just yet. Was it nostalgia that I felt? I still do not know. I just know how profound this loss was, and how I had been gone when it happened, far far away, staring at rivers through secret windows, shoving bresaola in my mouth, and wandering those streets over and again. 

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